Tuesday, February 7, 2012

2012 Oscar Predictions




And here we are again.  Is it just me, or did Awards Season sneak up on us this year?  I'd barely begun to process my thoughts on 2011 in movies when the smaller organizations started handing out their prizes.  But the Big Show quickly approaches, so it's time to get my thoughts organized.  Here are my predictions for this year's Oscars...

SOUND EDITING
  • Drive
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  • Hugo
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  • War Horse
SOUND MIXING
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  • Hugo
  • Moneyball
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  • War Horse
I always feel obligated to describe the difference between these two categories as, let's face it, they're not exactly the most glamorous, so nobody ever remembers what distinguishes them.  But hey, these wins could give you the edge in your Oscar pool, so pay attention.  Sound editing is the process of creating the aural aesthetic of a movie; kind of the audio equivalent of the cinematography and production design.  Sound mixing is the recording and blending of all the sound elements, creating the final results that you hear when watching a movie.

These categories usually go to the flashiest contenders - war movies, action movies, superhero stuff.  For example, both went to Inception last year.  This year, however, I anticipate a split.  Sound editing will go the flashy route with Transformers.  Sound mixing will go the high-minded route: Dragon Tattoo.

VISUAL EFFECTS
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
  • Hugo
  • Real Steel
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon
The effect that stood out from the crowd in 2011 was Planet of the Apes.  Bonus points for actually being a thoughtful scifi movie as well.  The Academy will be happy to reward this.




COSTUME DESIGN
  • Anonymous
  • The Artist
  • Hugo
  • Jane Eyre
  • W.E.
Well, this is always a tough category for me to predict.  The smart money is usually on the period piece, but... they're all period pieces this year.  Since The Artist is likely the big winner this year, I think it will take this award as part of its sweep.

DOCUMENTARY SHORT / ANIMATED SHORT / LIVE-ACTION SHORT

I'll be seeing the animated and live-action shorts in a couple weeks, and will post my picks shortly after that.  Be sure to check back.  I won't have access to the documentary shorts, so you're on your own with those.  If there's one about World War II, bet on that.

[ *Updated Feb. 21, 2012 - click HERE for my short film predictions. ]

FILM EDITING
  • Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
  • Kevin Tent, The Descendants
  • Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  • Thelma Schoonmaker, Hugo
  • Christopher Tellefsen, Moneyball
This will probably end up another win for The Artist, although I'm concerned Dragon Tattoo could come in and grab it.  But no, The Artist's momentum should carry this along with it.

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
  • John Williams, The Adventures of Tintin
  • Ludovic Bource, The Artist
  • Howard Shore, Hugo
  • Alberto Iglesias, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • John Williams, War Horse
I was really into the Tintin score (as well as everything else about Tintin), but the Academy has pretty much rejected the movie outright, so I wouldn't expect it to perform here.  I'd like to say that this will be another win for The Artist, but there was that bit of controversy specific to the score a while back.  Then again, that was kind of a controversy of one.  I do think The Artist will win here.

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)
  • "Man or Muppet" from The Muppets, Bret McKenzie
  • "Real in Rio" from Rio, Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown and Siedah Garrett
Wow, two whole songs were nominated.  Two!  Screw you, everyone else who wrote a song for a movie!  Anyway, I personally liked the song from Rio better, but I think there's just too much goodwill surrounding The Muppets.  "Man or Muppet" will most likely win.

ART DIRECTION
  • The Artist
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
  • Hugo
  • Midnight in Paris
  • War Horse
This is another category where flashy and obvious seems to win, so I'd expect Harry Potter to take this one.

CINEMATOGRAPHY
  • The Artist
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  • Hugo
  • The Tree of Life
  • War Horse
Tree of Life has a good shot here; Malick is nothing if not a painstaking photographer.  But as part of the overall package, the cinematography in The Artist was critical to its successful execution.  The Academy will surely recognize that achievement.




ANIMATED FEATURE
  • A Cat in Paris
  • Chico & Rita
  • Kung Fu Panda 2
  • Puss in Boots
  • Rango
My horse was left out of this race.  I'm an enthusiastic fan of Tintin, and I don't understand why it hasn't caught on better with audiences and critics in the U.S.  I found Puss in Boots remarkably charming and rewatchable, if not especially funny.  The two foreign films in this category are strong, but the Academy will probably end up keeping things safely American here.  The Annie Award went to Rango, and I'm thinking the Academy Award is likely to follow suit.

FOREIGN FEATURE
  • Bullhead
  • Footnote
  • In Darkness
  • Monsieur Lazhar
  • A Separation
Full disclosure: I've seen exactly zero of these movies.  I know, I know... I should be ashamed.  Regardless, I've heard the buzz on all of these movies, and none has been more buzzed about than A Separation.  Everyone who's seen this movie has been blown away by it.  No dissenting opinions.  This is the one to bet on.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
  • Hell and Back Again
  • If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
  • Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
  • Pina
  • Undefeated
The strongest contenders here are Pina and Paradise Lost 3.  Pina's smart use of 3-D -- in a documentary, no less -- could give it the edge.  But Paradise Lost 3 will be remembered as the movie that got innocent people released from jail.  That's a pretty strong recommendation.  My gut tells me this one will go to Paradise.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
  • Michel Hazanivicius, The Artist
  • Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, Bridesmaids
  • Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
  • J.C. Chandor, Margin Call
  • Asghar Farhadi, A Separation
Strong category here.  There's A Separation which, again, has been a huge critical hit.  But it will win Best Foreign Film, and the Academy won't feel the need to reward the script separately.  Midnight in Paris is well-reputed as a return-to-form for Woody Allen, and is a movie I particularly enjoyed.  But I think the Academy will be satisfied that they merely nominated this film; they won't feel the need to actually give it the win.  There's a possibility that Bridesmaids could win this one, as a de facto "best comedy picture" award.  But ultimately, I'd expect The Artist to win this one in its lead-up to winning the grand prize.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
  • Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, The Descendants
  • John Logan, Hugo
  • George Clooney, Beau Willimon and Grant Heslov, The Ides of March
  • Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin, Moneyball
  • Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
There's no clear frontrunner here, at least in this observer's humble opinion.  I don't think Ides of March or Moneyball have the critical or commercial oomph to land a victory here, despite the big names attached to those scripts.  Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has that British edge, but also not a great deal of breakout attention.  The two top contenders are Hugo and The Descendants.  Hugo is a movie about movies, which gives it a strong edge (Hollywood likes nothing more than its own reflection).  But I think The Descendants is slightly better loved overall, and won't be winning much else on Oscar night (although this is also true for Hugo).  I'd expect to see Dean Pelton take the stage.



( This guy co-wrote The Descendants )

SUPPORTING ACTOR
  • Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
  • Jonah Hill, Moneyball
  • Nick Nolte, Warrior
  • Christopher Plummer, Beginners
  • Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The elder statesmen are definitely the better bets this year; all three gave highly-regarded performances, and all three have yet to win Oscars.  But Christopher Plummer's role as a cancer-stricken father who comes out to his son late in life has been one of the most talked about of the year.  This is pretty close to a sure thing.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
  • Berenice Bejo, The Artist
  • Jessica Chastain, The Help
  • Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
  • Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
  • Octavia Spencer, The Help
This, on the other hand, is a sure thing.  Octavia Spencer will win.

ACTOR
  • Demian Bichir, A Better Life
  • George Clooney, The Descendants
  • Jean Dujardin, The Artist
  • Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • Brad Pitt, Moneyball
Although the momentum of The Artist could tip the scales in Jean Dujardin's favor, what really delights people is the cleverness of the concept and the execution of it by the director.  This is most likely a win for Clooney.




ACTRESS
  • Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
  • Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  • Viola Davis, The Help
  • Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
  • Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
If it's possible to have a more sure thing than the Supporting Actress category's sure thing, it's this.  I know that everyone automatically assumes Meryl Streep will always win everything, but that's not historically true, and it won't be true here.  Viola Davis will easily walk away with the win.

DIRECTOR
  • Michel Hazanivicius, The Artist
  • Alexander Payne, The Descendants
  • Martin Scorsese, Hugo
  • Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
  • Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
Look, I like all of these guys.  Eight years later and Payne's Sideways still cracks me up.  Hugo was charming and, as noted above, a great opportunity for a film lover like me to reflect on the act of loving film.  Midnight in Paris was extremely entertaining and may actually end up being a movie I need to own... which, in the age of digital streaming content, is really saying something.  And Terrence Malick's movies are always well-constructed meditations.  But The Artist was a smart gimmick that managed to transcend its gimmickry and stand on its own as an entertaining movie.  In short, it was an interesting premise that was successfully executed.  The person who gets credit for that is the director.

PICTURE
  • War Horse
  • The Artist
  • Moneyball
  • The Descendants
  • The Tree of Life
  • Midnight in Paris
  • The Help
  • Hugo
  • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
I remember when I first started hearing about The Artist.  It was supposed to have this cute little conceit of a concept, made by a ragtag group of French people with a tiny budget and a bit of ingenuity.  The Weinsteins had picked it up, and if you lived in one of the larger cities it might play in an arthouse theater near you.  Maybe it would get enough notice to pick up a Best Foreign Film nomination.

I should have known.  Harvey had other plans.

While The Artist reminded me of Cinema Paradiso, it must have reminded Harvey Weinstein of Shakespeare in Love - a lofty, intelligent love story that he could take all the way to the top.  And this year, there's no Saving Private Ryan to threaten his victory.

It's funny... about this time last year, I was talking about how Kevin Smith's move to self-distribute his latest movie, Red State, was reminding me of "the good old days" of Sundance - a time when some of the most exciting things in the world of filmmaking were coming out of that festival every January.  Now the Weinsteins -- who stumbled a bit after being kicked out of their original company, Miramax -- are finding their footing again and are up to their old tricks of taking small, quality movies further than anyone expected them to go - all the way to top.  (The King's Speech, last year's Best Picture winner, was one of theirs.)  My '90s nostalgia is tripping all over again.

There's a chance that The Help could swoop in and take a populist victory.  It's easily the most audience-pleasing movie on the list.  But amongst Academy voters, it's The Artist all the way.


Well, that's my take on this year's Oscar race.  What do you think?  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments below.

On Oscar night, I'll be live tweeting during the ceremony.  Click here to follow me.  The 84th Academy Awards will air on February 26, 2012 at 8 eastern/5 pacific on ABC.

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